For E’Brianna Larkin and La’Shaun Larkin-McCloud, as well as thousands of other Black parents throughout the country, celebrating Juneteenth is a new holiday. Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. With this official recognition, many Black parents are discovering ways to celebrate the event.
“I don’t know if we ever talked about what Juneteenth was, ” says Larkin. “I just knew That it was a holiday celebrating the emancipation of slavery and Black people. We went to a festival and there were different Black vendors there. We brought shirts and different knick-knacks in honor of the holiday, but I would say this year is the first one that we actively thought about celebrating.”
“We went to the festival and it was all Black people. Shirts, clothes, and cups celebrating Black people. It was empowering, ” says 10-year-old Larkin-McCloud.
Every year, African Americans recognize June 19th as the day that enslaved people living in Galveston, Texas were finally told they were free, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
“As a Black woman, I don’t know how well I passed down the knowledge of the holiday, ” says Larkin. “I think it’s very important for children to be educated about the holiday and its origin. I hate that the first experience was buying shirts and cups, but I think that was the only way we knew to celebrate. It is collectively growing and the more I tap into being a Black woman and being a parent, it’s important for my child to know where they came from. I want to do a better job in educating her about these roots.”
This is the first year Juneteeth will be a federal holiday. With that, comes commercialization and recuperation. As we have seen, there’s a thin line of what’s acceptable here. Walmart recently pulled a Juneteenth labeled ice cream after major backlash. Larkin says if we are supporting this kind of commercialization, then we have lost the true meaning of the holiday.
“I feel like there are some pros and cons with the commercialization. If someone wants to buy a flag or plate, that starts the conversation, but I don’t want to take those dollars from Black people. We often hear complaints that Black vendors are just too expensive, but we never think about the money that we give to places like Walmart or Target. If Juneteenth is about supporting Black people, we should be supporting Black businesses. We should be putting Black dollars back into Black pockets.”
“My aunt took us to the library, to festivals, to be around Black people and learn about Black culture, says Larkin. ‘We live in a society where Google is ever-present. It does take research or finding historians in our area. And make it your commitment, so that we can pass it on to the next generation. And ask your elders. Ask them what their understanding of Juneteenth is and educate ourselves.’
Word of mouth is the strongest tradition you can keep. Because throughout the centuries of this country burying who we are, word of mouth kept history and love alive and well. So, this Juneteenth invest in Black businesses and remember that education goes hand and hand with the cookout because there is no celebration without it.
Brianna Milon is a media professional residing in Rochester, NY. She graduated from SUNY Brockport with a bachelor’s in Journalism and Broadcasting in 2018 and has worked in radio, t.v. news, and public relations. The Buffalo native hosts her own radio show/podcast, Fat, Black, and Femme. When she isn’t writing or on air, you can find her at home playing with her cat Fancy, in Zumba class, and spending time with family and friends. Passions include social justice, body positivity/normativity, and chicken wings.